Our Legacy: In the Beginning
Humboldt General Hospital's goal is simple: to provide local residents
with the best care possible -- right here close to home. Historically,
though, that hasn't always been as easy as it sounds. According to
Winnemucca historian J.P. Marden, in the early days of Humboldt County,
if people became seriously ill, they would simply suffer and die; there
was very little that could be done to save them.
Most of the medicines available at that time were ineffective, and sanitary
conditions for operations and other treatments were non-existent. Even
doctors lacked any kind of bona fide credentials; instead, all they had
to do was hang out a shingle and they were in the business of health care.
Marden said, "Before the first hospital was opened in Winnemucca,
it was very common for the sick and injured to be treated at home or in
one of the local hotels." Marden said with the low level of expertise
of doctors at that time, there were many who died in these local hotels,
including the Winnemucca Hotel which registered more than 100 deaths in
those early days.
While Marden said no one knows for sure when the first Winnemucca hospital
was built, he said by 1886, a facility was in operation on the north side
of East Second Street near Second Street's crossing with the Water
Canyon Creek. "Under modern standards it wasn't much," said
Marden, "but at the time it was all Humboldt County had in the way
of advanced medical care."
Marden provided the following description of the hospital, which was published
in Humboldt County's newspaper, The Silver State, in 1897 after a
reporter was given the grand tour of the facility by Superintendent James
Hurst and his wife.
"The hospital is at present full to its utmost capacity, and I must
say that it does not take more than 16 people to leave standing room at
a premium. The building is but a small structure, consisting of six rooms
in all, and is entirely too small and too crowded for any kind of comfort
or convenience, but although I noticed five beds in one room and as many
in another, I was struck with their cleanliness and the fine condition
in which everything was kept."
Still, it did take some time for the idea of a local hospital to establish
itself firmly in the minds of residents. According to the following account,
perhaps residents' misgivings had more to do with medical practices
at the time rather than hospital facilities themselves.
Marden pointed to a Silver State article that records that in 1892, Charles
Neale had his hands severely burned and was admitted to the county hospital
for care. His doctor, Dr. Cartwright, decided that two of his fingers
were healing too slowly and would have to be amputated. According to the
report, "The operation was performed in the twinkling of an eye and
without the administration of chloroform to the patient."
Growth and Progress
Marden said that as Winnemucca grew into the 20th Century, it became apparent
that the hospital on Second Street would no longer serve the needs of
the community. He said, "By 1907, the Humboldt County Board of Commissioners
became somewhat improvement minded and decided that a new jail and a new
hospital were needed to better care for the citizens of the county.
Officials took their first step toward improved health care in the community
when they purchased land on what was then called East Railroad Street,
but which would soon become known as Haskell Street-the same property
that houses Humboldt General Hospital today.
Money woes were common then even as they are today. When the hospital first
went to bid in October of that year, the two bids received were rejected
as too high; both were for just over $15,000. "It is apparent that
the commissioners wanted to join the 20th Century," said Marden,
"but it was not going to be at just any cost." Eventually the
money problems were ironed out, however, and D. I. LaPoint was awarded
the contract in April 1908.
By the end of August, the hospital was nearly complete; patients moved
in that December. Marden provided the following excerpt from The Humboldt
Star which describes the new facility: "The building is a handsome
structure and is a great credit to Humboldt County. The hospital is constructed
of brick and is 50 x 70 feet in size and two stories high with colonial porch.
"On the upper floor there are nine large wards, with bathrooms and
clothes closets for the patients. The lower floor contains two living
rooms for the superintendent, the operating room, dining room, kitchen,
pantry, drug room, a bathroom and four large wards. Besides the rooms
described there are large lobbies . . . . The new hospital contains nothing
but first-class material . . ."
Over the ensuing years, Marden said a number of improvements were made
to the building, including the addition of a screen porch in 1913, as
well as a large elevator that was used to lift and lower patients. A new
bathroom with two toilets was added upstairs to better accommodate the
patients and the staff, and an old shed at the rear of the hospital was
converted. One half became a laundry facility while the other was transformed
into an ice house and refrigerator room.
More expansions took place in 1936, 1942 and 1962. Finally, in 1973, a
new hospital building was erected on a section of property east of the
old hospital between Harmony and Mizpah streets. Extensive remodeling,
modifications and additions were carried out beginning in 1993. Those
changes also resulted in a new extended care facility, Harmony Manor.
Over the next 10 years, the hospital's growth had less to do with physical
construction and more to do with technological expansion. Over that time
period, Humboldt General added new MRI, C-Scan and Ultrasound machines
as well as a new $2 million computer system which integrated all hospital
systems under one network.
In July 2010, Humboldt General Hospital broke ground on a 35,860-square-foot
expansion that saw the addition of a medical office building to the front
of the existing hospital structure as well as a smaller expansion of some
In all, eight medical office suites were added to the new first- and second-story
space offers a central reception and scheduling area. The impressive new
addition to the hospital campus is constructed of glass, brick and steel,
offering a contemporary feel that blends nicely with all previous hospital
Two years later, the hospital completed an expansion/remodel of its Acute
Care Wing, which served to privatize all patient rooms. In 2017, the hospital
will complete its largest expansions and remodels to date including the
new Rural Health Clinic; the Quail Corner Life Enrichment Community --
a memory care facility; a total remodel of the Harmony Manor Skilled Nursing
and Residential Care Community; a new underground parking garage that
specifically serves a brand new Obstetrics Department and the Rural Health
Clinic; and expanded and remodeled OR and ER departments.